DO YOU THINK OR DO YOU KNOW YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN?
SERIES: JESUS, SAVIOR OF THE LOST
By Ron Ritchie
When the Philippines Islands suffered the recent 7.7 earthquake, I could
not help but remember a ministry trip our staff took to that country several
years ago. I was sent to the cool mountain town of Baguio, some 130 north
of Manila. There, I was invited to be the guest of a Lutheran missionary
couple from Missouri and their two children. A young Philippine man worked
for them as cook and housekeeper, and we soon became good friends in spite
of my busy schedule. One evening, I was free to have dinner with the family.
After we said grace the cook served us a lovely dinner and then left. When
I asked where he had gone, the family said he was out in the garage, eating
his supper. I asked them why that was necessary, and they replied that it
was the custom there. I looked at them for a long moment and then quietly
stood up, took my plate, went out to the garage and sat down next to him.
When we returned to the main house, we found the couple sitting at the dinner
table, crying. We went into the living room and I began to ask them questions
about their faith. I soon found out that they came out to the islands out
of a sense of religious duty, and soon after they arrived they discovered
they didn't even like the Philippine people. That evening I had the privilege
of introducing this "missionary couple" to Jesus Christ as their
Lord and Savior. Later, they wrote me saying they had left the islands and
returned home to wait on their Lord for the next step in their new life.
This incident brings to mind the apostle Paul's admonition to his spiritual
children in Corinth who were struggling with personal sin: "Test yourselves
to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize
this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you-unless indeed you fail
the test? (unless indeed you are counterfeits)" (2 Cor.13:5). Today,
in our study in Luke 8:1-21, I hope all of us will allow the Lord through
his word to test our faith to see if our Christianity is authentic or counterfeit.
The question we want to ask is: Do you think or do you know you are a Christian?
The Lord will help us answer that question by giving us a series of three
test questions: (1) What is the condition of your heart? (2) What is the
position of your light? (3) (3) What is the rationale of your faith?
Last week, in our study in Luke 7, we again saw repeated the theme of Luke's
gospel, our Lord's statement that he had come to this world "...not
to call righteous men but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5: 32). This
message was clearly demonstrated in verses 36 through 50 of chapter 7 in
the acts of love poured out on Jesus by a woman whose sins had been forgiven.
At the same time our Lord lovingly reached out to a self-righteous Pharisee
who was testing him to see if he were the Prophet of Deut.18:15. The man,
of course, did not realize that he himself was being tested by Jesus and
found wanting. The testing now continues as our Lord moves from the home
of the Pharisee to the small cities and villages of Galilee. Luke 8:1-4:
And it came about soon afterwards, that He began going about
from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom
of God; and the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed
of evil spirits and sicknesses, Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom
seven spirits had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward,
and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out
of their private means. And when a great multitude were coming together,
and those from the various cities were journeying to Him, He spoke by way
of a parable.
Jesus continues to travel throughout Galilee, preaching the Kingdom of God.
The Jews, of course, were hoping that, based on the many prophecies of the
Old Testament, the Messiah would one day arrive in Israel, overthrow the
hated Roman Empire, redeem God's people from their sins, restore the Kingdom
of God on earth to the former glory of David and Solomon, and finally institute
a kingdom in which he would rule in peace and righteousness. When Jesus,
the true Messiah, arrived, he was anything but what the average Jew had
in mind. Jesus, a carpenter from Nazareth, had no army. His message, which
was accompanied by signs and wonders, was that he was the "Expected
One," and that the Kingdom of God for the moment was spiritual in nature-he
would establish his kingdom in the hearts of all who invited him to become
their Lord and Savior.
Many Jews in Galilee who had heard the Lord's message understood it and
began to follow him. As he traveled, his twelve disciples followed him,
and in time so did several grateful women. Mary, called Magdalene, from
whom seven demons were cast out, was a follower. She would later be present
at the cross, and then at the empty tomb (Mark 16:1). Another follower was
Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward. She also joined Mary to anoint
the Lord's body at the tomb, only to be confronted by the two angels who
said, "Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here
for He has risen" (Luke 24: 5-9). Susanna was another follower. There
were many others who were supporting the ministry of Jesus and the twelve,
including perhaps the former prostitute of Luke 7. All of these women had
had their deepest spiritual and emotional needs met by Jesus. (At this point
in the chronological history of our Lord's ministry in Galilee, Matthew
12:22-45 and Mark 3:22-30 record the incident where Jesus healed a blind
and dumb demonic, only to be accused by some visiting Jerusalem Pharisees
of casting out demons in the name of Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.
But Jesus answered, "If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do
your sons cast them out? But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God,
then the Kingdom of God has come upon you." Matt 12:27-28.)
"...a great multitude were coming together," we read in verse
4, so Jesus and his followers moved toward the shore of the Sea of Galilee
where he found a boat and sat down in it in order to teach the multitude
as well as his disciples (Matt. 13:2, Mark 4). Following the confrontation
with the Pharisees which we have just quoted from Matthew's gospel, from
this point on our Lord decided to teach his disciples by means of parables.
Parables speak to the hearts of those who want to understand spiritual truth,
for once explained they reveal insight into what Jesus calls the "...mysteries
of the kingdom of God..." (8: 10), but they close the hearts of those
who are hardened in unbelief. Now, our Lord is ready to test the hearts
of his listeners by means of a parable, but he will later explain only to
his disciples the meaning behind the parable.
I. Test No.1: What is the Condition of Your Heart?, Luke 8:5-15
"The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some
fell beside the road; and it was trampled under foot, and the birds of the
air devoured it. And other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew
up, it withered, because it had no moisture. And other seed fell among the
thorns; and the thorns grew up with it, and choked it out. And other seed
fell into the good ground, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times
as great." As He said these things, He would call out, "He who
has ears to hear, let him hear." And His disciples began questioning
Him as to what this parable might be. And He said, "To you it is granted
to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables;
in order that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.
Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. And those beside the
road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word
from their heart, so that they may not believe and be saved. And those on
the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy;
and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation
fall away. And the seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones
who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries
and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. And
the seed in the good ground, these are the ones who have heard the word
in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance."
As he surveyed the crowd, Jesus knew that although all of them had eyes,
ears and minds, many refused to use them (Matt. 13:13). But at the same
time there were some, like his band of disciples, who were hungry for spiritual
truth. He responded by telling the whole crowd the parable of the sower,
later explaining it only to his disciples because, we read, "As He
said these things, He would call out, 'He who has ears to hear, let him
hear.' And his disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable might
be. And He said, 'To you it is granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom
of God, but to the rest in parables; in order that "Seeing they may
not see and hearing they may not understand' ("Lest they return again
and be forgiven," Mark 4:12, Isaiah 6:9.)
Our Lord goes on to explain the meaning of the symbols behind this parable.
In Matt.13:38, he says that he is the sower, and the living seed is the
word of God. Peter would later write "...for you have been born again
not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, though the living
and abiding word of God ...and this is the word which was preached to you"
(1 Peter 23-25). Jesus will then explain that the different soils represent
the hearts of men and women. He casts the seed on the ground, but only that
soil that has been properly prepared can receive it and grow to full maturity.
First, we have the response of the callous heart: "Some fell beside
the road; and it was trampled under foot, and the birds of the air ate it
up." Jesus explained that the seeds that fell beside the road represent
those who have heard, but then the devil comes and takes away the word from
their heart so that they may not believe and be saved. The issue is salvation.
Last year, I was asked to speak some words of comfort at a memorial service
for a man in midlife who was killed in an accident. I sowed the seeds of
God's word from John 14, and then offered the gospel, eternal life and spiritual
comfort to all in the room. Two friends of the deceased came up to me right
after the service to let me know that "Charlie (the deceased) would
not have agreed with anything I had said." Then they left.
Next, we have the impulsive heart: "other seed fell on rocky soil,
and as soon as it grew up, it withered away because it had no moisture"
(v.6). Jesus explained, "Those on the rocky soil are those who when
they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; and they
believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away." They received
the word superficially into an impulsive heart, but it took no firm root.
Matt 13:20-21 adds "...and when affliction or persecution arises because
of the word, immediately he falls away." I have been saddened by a
young single woman I know in whom were sown the seeds of the word of God.
She accepted our Lord's invitation and was immediately ministered to by
a host of born again single men and women. It appeared that she was growing
spiritually until she met and later married a non-believer. Now she will
have nothing to do with us.
And third, the worldly heart: "other seed fell among the thorns; and
the thorns grew up with it, and choked it out (v.7)." Jesus explained,
"And the seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have
heard, and as they go their way they are choked with worries and riches,
and pleasures of this life and bring no fruit to maturity" (v.14).
The third heart listened with a degree of seriousness, but before faith
could become active the cares of this world choked it and it was unfruitful.
John wrote: "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If
any one loves the world, the Father is not in him. For all that is in the
world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the boastful
pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world
is passing away, and also its lust, but the one who does the will of God
abides forever" (1 John 2:15-17).
Based on the parable of the impulsive heart and worldly heart, both of which
had a form of life, one could ask the question, is it possible for born
again believers to lose their salvation because they have become so tempted
by sin, or overwhelmed by affliction and persecution, or so choked with
worries or riches or the pleasures of this life that they are "out"
for the eternal count? This issue of "eternal security" has always
been a hotly debated subject among Christians in every generation ever since
the beginning of the church. Both sides can quote verses that prove to them,
and hopefully to you, that their view of eternal security is biblical. But
can both sides be right?
In our weekly staff studies we have been confronted many times with this
issue. I think we have come up some clarity that may add new insight into
the question. John in his gospel records that the Lord told Nicodemus that
unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. When Nicodemus
struggled with that spiritual concept on a physical level, our Lord further
explained that "...unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot
enter the kingdom of God; that which is born of the flesh is flesh and that
which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3).
In order to understand spiritual rebirth we must review some facts about
our natural birth. A person is conceived in his mother's womb and remains
there for nine months, during which time the mother's life sustains the
fetus. Then, at birth and following, the baby depends for a time on its
mother's milk for sustenance. Later, the baby is weaned, and begins to become
a little more independent. He progresses into adulthood, grows old, and
dies. But Jesus said that once a person is "born of the spirit"
he shall never perish (John 3).
Just as the physical fetus depends on its mother's blood for life within
the womb, so also the spiritual fetus living within an impulsive and worldly
person has his spiritual gestation period given to him by God-life, but
not birth. "But as many as have received Him, to them He gave the right
to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name" (John
1:12). The fetus which draws its life from the life of its mother gives
us a picture of how impulsive and worldly hearts draw their faith off the
lives of others within the body of Christ. Once given the opportunity to
be "born spiritually," or, as Christ said, "born again,"
they have no faith of their own, so that when temptation or crisis crosses
their path they have no spiritual resource of their own. Thus they experience
life, but no spiritual birth or spiritual growth. Therefore the question
is not whether one can lose his salvation, for if he or she was truly born
again that salvation is secure. The question is, "Were they ever born
again in the first place?" I would submit, No!
This is not to say that once we sow the word of God in callous, impulsive
or worldly hearts, and it does not take root and produce fruit, that we
should never attempt to sow seed in those hearts again. No, because between
the first sowing and the next sowing their hearts may have been properly
prepared by the Spirit to accept the new seed. The lives of Nicodemus and
Saul give us hope, for, after several sowings, both of these men eventually
came to an understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ
Now we come to the prepared heart: "And other seed fell into the good
ground, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great."
Jesus comments, "And the seed in the good ground, these are the ones
who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and
bear fruit with perseverance." This seed represents the good heart,
for it not only hears the word of God and believes it, but the power of
the word of God produces good fruit-becoming more and more like Jesus Christ
and desiring, when motivated by his Holy Spirit, to participate with perseverance
in the good works he has set before us (Ephesians 2:10). It is this heart
that receives eternal life, never to lose it. But the bottom line is still
2 Tim. 2:26, "The Lord knows those who are his."
Talking about a fruitful life reminds me of Dr. John Mitchell, who died
recently at age 97. Dr. Mitchell stood in this pulpit many times. Here is
part of an obituary I read of this man:
Dr. John G. Mitchell, the man who asked, "Don't you people ever read
your Bibles?", died in Portland, Oregon, on May 17 at the age of 97.
He leaves a legacy of more than 70 years of ministry to the family of God
and will be remembered not only for his vision as founder and chairman of
the Board of Multnomah School of the Bible, but also for his deep devotion
to the Scriptures and his Savior. ... Mitchell preached his first sermon
in three minutes. "I told all I knew and no one knew what I had said,"
he recalled. To overcome his stuttering and his "shorthand English,"
he walked the Canadian prairies, reading his Bible and praying out loud...Dr.
Mitchell [once] said, I have one passion. It is to have people know Jesus
Christ and the Scriptures. The heart and center of Christianity is Christ.
Remove Christ and you have mere religion."
This wonderful Christian man had a ministry lasting 70 years. I loved to
listen to him, and I always wanted to be like him. What a productive life,
preaching the word all those years. I can still hear him say, "My beloved,
it's all in the Bible. Read your Bible."
Do you think or do you know that you are a Christian? Here is Test No.1:
What is the condition of your heart?
II. Test No 2: What is the Position of your Light?, Luke 8:16-18
"Now no one after lighting a lamp covers it over with a
container, or puts it under a bed; but he puts it on a lampstand, in order
that those who come in may see the light. For nothing is hidden that shall
not become evident, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come
to light. Therefore take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him shall
more be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall
be taken away from him."
The Lord has just shed light on the mysteries of the kingdom of God for
his faithful disciples. He shared with them his ministry of sowing the word
of God and the spiritual warfare that goes on after the seed is sown. Now
he challenges them, not on the issue of salvation, but on their faithfulness
to take the light of the mysteries of the kingdom into the dark world of
unbelievers. They should not hide that light under a basket or a bed, but
rather put it on a lampstand for all to see. When Jesus appeared on the
stage of history he was called by the priest, Simeon, quoting Isaiah 42:6,
"...a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people
Israel" (Luke 2:32). And so Jesus announced to all who would hear,
"I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the
darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12).
Our Lord once told the men who had placed their faith in him that they had
become "the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a peck-measure; but on a lampstand,
and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before
men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father
who is in heaven." (Matt. 5:14-16). Later, Paul and Barnabas declared
to the Jews in Antioch who rejected them and the gospel of Jesus Christ,
"We are turning to the Gentiles. For thus the Lord has commanded us,
I have placed you as a light for the Gentiles that you shall bring salvation
to the end of the earth" (Isa. 49:6). If the good seed of salvation
has come into your heart and has taken root, then your life will be spiritually
fruitful. Once you become a follower of Christ you have come into a relationship
with the light of the world. His light of truth and righteousness has been
placed into your heart, and your life is to become a container of that light,
which is truth leading to eternal life.
But Jesus issues a warning in verses 17, 18. In time, if you have a true
relationship with Jesus, it will eventually come to light. And if you have
received the truth of the gospel, more shall be given to you. Those who
think they are a light container but hide their light (the truth they were
given about the mysteries of the kingdom) under a bushel or under a bed,
in time may find that the truth of Christ they think they have shall be
taken away from them. One day when they reach out to others they will find
they have no light.
Recently I was having dinner with an intern in our church and a man who
had just come back into fellowship with the Lord after a season of sin.
Because of his sin he had allowed the oil in his light to become so low
that there was just a flicker left, and yet he and others thought that he
was a bright light on a hill. The intern wanted to know what it was like
to come back to the Lord. He used an illustration from his own background
and asked, "Was it, in a sense, like you were a great basketball player
who had not played for several years and the moment you arrived on the court
someone threw you the basketball and all those years of practice and playing
came back?" The man looked at the intern, paused for a moment, and
said, "No. It was as if I stepped on the court and someone threw me
the basketball and I said, 'What is this?'"
Do you think or do you know that you are a Christian:? Test No.1: What is
the condition of your heart? Test No 2: What is the position of your light?
III. Test No 3: What is the Rationale of your Relationship?, Luke 8:19-21
And His mother came to Him and his brothers also, and they were
unable to get to Him because of the crowd. And it was reported to Him, "Your
mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see You."
But He answered and said to them, "My mother and brothers are those
who hear the word of God and do it."
In the middle of this session of teaching the Lord's family, his mother,
Mary, and his brothers, James, Joseph, Simon and Judas (Matt.13:55) (his
sisters are not mentioned here, 13:56), come looking for Jesus. It is obvious
that they had a special place in his life. As they approached the crowd,
however, they found they could not get to him. Word was passed to him that
his personal family members were outside and wished to see him, probably
on some personal business since he had been away from Capernaum for a while.
It was a natural request, but in light of what he had just been teaching,
Jesus used the opportunity to teach a deeper spiritual truth. His kinfolk
are not only those in his immediate family who had placed their faith in
him as their Messiah, says Jesus, in effect, but all who placed their faith
in him as Messiah and established a spiritual relationship with him as their
Lord and Savior. Then, having heard the Word of God, they allowed the seed
to take firm root, and the fruit of their lives is Christlike character
and good works. If one claims to be a Christian and there is no visible
fruit as to the existence of a spiritual relationship with Jesus as Lord
and Savior, his commitment is highly questionable. How many times when you
asked people if they are Christians have you heard the response, "Well,
my brother is a priest"? Or, "My sister is a nun"? Or, "My
uncle is a missionary." But salvation comes by faith in Jesus Christ,
not by being part of a religious family tree.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "Test yourselves to see whether you
are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus
is in you-unless, of course, you fail the test?" (2 Cor.13:5). Unless
your are a counterfeit, Paul is saying.
Do you think or do you know that you are a Christian? The Lord gave the
crowd and the disciples three test questions to check out their relationship
with him. We can do the same.
1. What is the condition of your heart? The seed which fell
on the good ground are those who heard the word in an honest and good heart,
held it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance (7:15). If this reflects
your lifestyle, then you are a authentic Christian.
2. What is the position of your light? Is it on a lampstand, in order that
those who come in may see the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ? (7:16).
If this reflects your lifestyle, then you are a authentic Christian.
3. What is the rationale of your relationship? If your relationship is based
on faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and your heart is not only willing
to listen to the word of God but you are willing to live out the word of
God in a dark world, then you are an authentic Christian.
Catalog No. 4137
Ron R. Ritchie
July 29, 1990
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